What are 2 variations of king cake?

King cake is a traditional dessert served during the Carnival season leading up to Mardi Gras. It originated in New Orleans but has spread to other parts of the United States. There are a few different variations of king cake, with the two most popular being the cinnamon king cake and the cream cheese king cake.

What is a traditional king cake?

A traditional king cake is an oval-shaped pastry that is decorated in the Mardi Gras colors of purple, green, and gold. The cake is topped with colored sugar to resemble the jeweled crowns worn by medieval kings. Inside the cake is a small plastic baby figurine, meant to represent baby Jesus. The person who gets the slice with the figurine is said to have good luck and must provide the next king cake or host the next Mardi Gras party.

King cakes are made from a yeast dough that is braided or twisted and baked into a ring. The dough itself is relatively plain, often just flavored with a bit of lemon zest. After baking, the cake is brushed with a glaze or icing and then decorated with the colored sugars. Traditionally, a small porcelain figurine of a baby was hidden inside the cake, but most bakeries now use a plastic baby for safety reasons.

Cinnamon King Cake

One very popular variation of the traditional king cake is the cinnamon king cake. As the name implies, cinnamon king cake is flavored with cinnamon and other warm spices that give it a sweet, aromatic taste.

To make a cinnamon king cake, the basic yeast dough is enhanced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and sometimes allspice or mace. Brown sugar or molasses are also commonly added to deepen the flavor. The interior of the cake takes on a soft, fluffy texture and the exterior is coated with a sticky, gooey cinnamon glaze or icing.

The cinnamon king cake may also include a cream cheese filling, raisins, or pecans sprinkled between the layers of dough. The purple, green, and gold sugars are still used to decorate the exterior along with the plastic baby figurine tucked inside. The sweet spiciness of the cinnamon paired with the rich cream cheese make this king cake variation especially delicious.

Benefits of Cinnamon

There are a few reasons why cinnamon makes such a great addition to a king cake:

  • Cinnamon has a warm, fragrant aroma that evokes the festive spirit of Mardi Gras.
  • It provides a sweetness that complements the soft dough without being overly sugary.
  • Cinnamon adds layers of flavor from the spice as well as richness from the cinnamon sugar coating.
  • It gives the king cake an indulgent, comforting appeal perfect for celebrating Carnival season.

Cream Cheese King Cake

Another beloved king cake variety is the cream cheese king cake. This type of king cake takes the plain dough and stuffs it with a rich, sweet cream cheese filling.

The filling is typically made by blending cream cheese with sugar, eggs, and vanilla or almond extracts. Some recipes also add citrus zest or a touch of heavy cream. The creamy filling has a consistency ranging from a thick pudding to a fluffy frosting.

To assemble the cake, the dough is rolled out into a rectangle. The cream cheese filling is spread over the dough which is then rolled up jelly roll style. The log is shaped into an oval, baked, and topped with glaze and colored sugars.

Each slice of the cream cheese king cake reveals the ribbon of decadent filling swirled through the tender cake. The contrast of the subtle dough and rich cream cheese is what makes this version so tasty.

Benefits of Cream Cheese Filling

There are a few reasons why cream cheese makes an amazing filling for king cake:

  • The smooth, creamy texture perfectly complements the light, fluffy dough.
  • Cream cheese has a mild tang that balances out the sweetness.
  • It adds moisture and richness to keep the cake delicate and flavorful.
  • The filling provides a fun surprise when you cut into a slice of king cake.

Other King Cake Variations

While cinnamon and cream cheese are the two most popular, there are plenty of other delicious king cake flavors to enjoy. Here are a few examples:

  • Praline – The cake contains chopped pralines or praline flavored cream cheese.
  • Strawberry – Made with fresh strawberry puree or preserves in the filling.
  • Blueberry – Bursting with juicy blueberries and lemon zest.
  • Key Lime – Filled with tart key lime pie filling.
  • Coconut – Dusted with coconut on the exterior.
  • Bavarian Cream – Flavored with chocolate or fruit flavored bavarian cream.
  • Bananas Foster – Filled with bananas cooked in brown sugar, rum, and spices.
  • Tiramisu – With layers of coffee and Kahlua soaked ladyfingers.
  • Red Velvet – A bright red cake with cream cheese frosting.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to king cake flavors! Bakeries love to get creative with new flavor combinations and fillings each Mardi Gras season.

History of the King Cake Tradition

King cakes are an important part of the Carnival celebrations leading up to Mardi Gras because they symbolize the wise men’s journey to visit the Christ child. The tradition is believed to have originated in France in the 12th century.

In France, the galette des rois or “cake of kings” became popular around the Epiphany, the 12th day after Christmas. A figurine representing baby Jesus was originally baked inside the cake and the person who found it hosted a party on Twelfth Night.

When French colonists settled in Louisiana, they brought the tradition of the gateau des rois along with them. Over the years, the cake evolved into the colorful king cakes we know today.

Now, king cake season kicks off on January 6th and lasts until Mardi Gras day. Over this period, communities come together to celebrate by baking, decorating, and enjoying these festive cakes.

Symbolism in Mardi Gras King Cakes

All the components of a king cake represent different aspects of Epiphany and Mardi Gras:

  • The oval or ring shape – Symbolizes the never-ending circle of life and the cycles of the season.
  • The baby figurine – Represents the baby Jesus and the three wise men’s journey.
  • The colorful sugar – Signifies the three kings’ crowns and justice, faith, and power.
  • The feasting – Celebrates the stages of Carnival season leading up to Lent.

Eating king cake brings families and communities together. Finding the figurine in your slice is considered good luck! It also comes with obligations – whoever gets the baby hosts the next king cake party.

How to Order King Cakes

The best places to order king cakes are local New Orleans bakeries that ship nationwide. Here are some top options:

Bakery Popular Flavors Shipping Details
Gambino’s Bakery Cream cheese, cinnamon, praline Ships next day nationwide
Haydel’s Bakery Cream cheese, strawberry, pecan praline Ships nationwide
Manny Randazzo’s Cream cheese, apple, chocolate mousse Ships to most states
Randazzo’s Camellia City Bakery Cream cheese, pecan praline, blueberry Ships nationwide

Order 1-2 weeks ahead online to ensure delivery before Mardi Gras on February 21, 2023. Ship times range from 1-4 days for most orders.

How to Store King Cakes

King cakes should be stored properly to maintain freshness after delivery:

  • Leave the cake refrigerated until ready to serve. Allow it to come to room temperature 1-2 hours before eating.
  • Leftover king cake slices can be stored in the fridge for 3-4 days. Rewarm in the oven at 300°F for 5 minutes before serving.
  • Uniced king cakes can be frozen for 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before decorating.
  • Frosted or filled king cakes are best eaten within 1-2 days. The moisture in fillings makes them less suitable for freezing.

How to Decorate Your Own King Cake

You can buy an undecorated king cake and decorate it yourself for a fun activity leading up to Mardi Gras. Here are some tips:

  • Choose a plain king cake or use your own brioche or coffee cake dough recipe.
  • Make a simple glaze with powdered sugar, milk, and vanilla. Spread over cake.
  • Divide colored sugars into separate bowls – purple, green, gold, or Mardi Gras colors.
  • Sprinkle the sugars lightly over the glazed cake, alternating colors.
  • Add stripes, polka dots, or fleur de lis patterns using the colored sugars.
  • Insert a small plastic baby into the side or bottom of the cake.
  • Keep the cake well wrapped and refrigerated until time to serve.

Decorating your own king cake is a fun family or party activity. Get creative with the colors and designs!

King Cake Recipes to Make at Home

Try making these delicious king cake recipes at home for your next Mardi Gras celebration:

Easy Cinnamon King Cake


  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon


  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 Tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  1. Combine dough ingredients. Knead until smooth elastic dough forms.
  2. Roll out to 1/4 inch thickness. Spread filling down center.
  3. Roll up and shape into oval ring on a baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. Cool completely.
  5. Mix glaze ingredients and drizzle over cooled cake.
  6. Decorate with colored sugars.

Cream Cheese Filled King Cake


  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour


  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Activate yeast in warm milk. Let stand until foamy.
  2. Beat butter and sugar. Mix in yeast, eggs, salt and flour.
  3. Knead until smooth, cover and let rise 1 hour.
  4. Beat together filling ingredients until smooth.
  5. Roll out dough to rectangle. Spread filling down center.
  6. Roll up jelly-roll style and shape into oval ring.
  7. Cover and let rise 1 hour. Bake at 350°F 35-40 minutes.
  8. Ice with glaze and decorate with colored sugars.

Make one of these king cakes to enjoy a taste of New Orleans right at home. The cinnamon and cream cheese versions are always crowd pleasers.

Where to Eat King Cake in New Orleans

When visiting New Orleans during Carnival season, stop by one of these top bakeries to try authentic, incredible king cakes:

  • Gambino’s Bakery – A classic neighborhood bakery dishing out king cakes of all flavors and styles. Don’t miss their famous king cake filled with pecan praline cheesecake.
  • Dong Phuong Bakery – Specializing in Vietnamese-style king cakes with unique tropical flavors like key lime, mango, coconut, and pineapple.
  • Haydel’s Bakery – Known for their stuffed king cakes overflowing with fillings like chocolate, praline, and cream cheese.
  • Adrian’s Bakery – Using special European recipes, they make old world style king cakes topped with gooey caramel icing.
  • La Boulangerie – This bakery puts a French spin on king cake with brioche dough and elegant pastel icings.
  • Sucre – Their petite king cake balls stuffed with fillings like salted caramel and lemon curd put a fun, modern twist on the classic.

New Orleans takes king cake very seriously, so visiting one of the city’s bakeries is a delicious way to immerse yourself in the Mardi Gras spirit.


The king cake tradition is a cherished part of every Mardi Gras season. While the classic cinnamon and cream cheese king cakes are tried and true favorites, half the fun is trying inventive new flavors and fillings. Ordering king cakes is the perfect way to take part in the festivities even if you can’t make it to New Orleans. Just be sure to savor a slice – and be on the lookout for the baby hidden inside!

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